Friday, July 7, 2017

Queering Eve


 

A key doctrine in Mormon theology is the Fall of Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, God said “Ye shall not eat of [the fruit of that tree], neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:3). But the serpent tempted Eve, who ate, and Adam followed suit soon after. While we Mormons share the concept of fallen humanity with other Christian sects, Mormons have a unique perspective: we consider the Fall to be an essential part of God’s plan for us. The Garden of Eden was never meant to be humanity’s home, but was merely a rest stop between creation and mortality. It would be the site of a critical decision that would begin Adam and Eve’s learning process on Earth; therefore the net gain from eating the forbidden fruit far outweighed any drawbacks. In fact, had they remained in the garden, they wouldn’t have progressed much at all in life:  
If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. (2 Nephi 2:22–23
Adam was, quite frankly, a daddy’s boy. God gave him a commandment and he was content to obey. When Satan presented him with the fruit, he never considered eating it.1 And Adam’s single-minded, perfect obedience to God nearly screwed over all of humanity. Eve was the one who figured it out, or at least intuited what needed to be done. She realized that knowledge could only be obtained through life experience, that real human progress couldn’t happen in a peaceful paradise. Obeying God was getting in the way of eternal happiness. So Eve partook of the fruit, and got Adam to partake, and all our modern prophets have extolled the decision. Take Joseph Fielding Smith, for instance:
 One of these days, if I ever get to where I can speak to Mother Eve, I want to thank her for tempting Adam to partake of the fruit. He accepted the temptation, with the result that children came into this world. … If she hadn’t had that influence over Adam, and if Adam had done according to the commandment first given to him, they would still be in the Garden of Eden and we would not be here at all. We wouldn’t have come into this world. So the commentators made a great mistake when they put in the Bible … “man’s shameful fall.”
What are we to take away from our first parents’ example? Usually we think of the Fall as a long-finished fact and leave it at that: “Oh, how wonderful that Adam and Eve did that however many millennia ago!” But I contend that there is another lesson to be learned here. Sometimes God’s commandments actually get in the way of our eternal progress, and we will need to make a decision between obeying God and developing into the person He wants us to become.

“Heresy!” you cry. Well, yes, but it may just be a true one. There is great comfort in the words of our hymn, “Keep the commandments. In this there is safety; in this there is peace.” But too much peace and too much safety, and we become like Adam and Eve, trapped in a coddling, paradisiacal bubble. No amount of commandment-keeping will keep out all of mortality’s troubles, but that doesn’t stop most people from trying. We want peace over the growing pains of life.

This doesn’t mean that we seek out trouble, and it certainly shouldn’t give us a license to sin whenever we find commandments inconvenient. Progressive disobedience is the exception that makes the rule rather than a way of life. But in some instances God seems to allow us to exercise our agency, together with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, to choose for ourselves what is best for our own progress. Perhaps that is why Joseph Smith added in an extra phrase to the Genesis narrative: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17, emphasis added).

Queer Mormons have long had impossible decisions to make. Do we stay in the safety and peace of the Gospel, enjoying all these wonderful blessings from God? Or do we venture forth from His protection into the lone and dreary world to find our mate who has already partaken of the fruit? Is it good to remain a lone man in the Garden of Eden, or do we intend to obey all of God’s commandments and start our own families? Perhaps some will hear in my words the “temptations” of Eve beckoning them to fecund life. Or maybe I’m more like Satan, spinning false doctrines to lead people astray. Of course, in the story of the Fall, Adam could listen to either one to get where he needed to go.   

I’ll add in a word of caution: Falling hurts. Adam was sentenced to hard labor, while Eve got labor pains. They lost their paradise and were expelled from God’s presence. Queer Mormons lose their ordinances, their Church membership, and ultimately the Celestial kingdom, eternal families, and God. Adam and Eve gained children, and the whole human race shouts for joy over their decision. When queer Mormons form families, illicit though they may be, will our descendants shout for joy as well?

We know that gay sex and gay marriage bring spiritual death. In the day thou lovest thou shalt surely die. Adam and Eve were saved by the Grace of Jesus Christ and gained everything back. Will Jesus come for us queer Mormons too?

Eve gets the final word here in a statement that is deliciously paradoxical:
And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5:11)



________________________________________________________________________

Notes:
1) Mormons have many accounts of the Fall in our scriptures and temple ceremonies. I count at least five. Some details may be unfamiliar to those who only adhere to the Genesis account.


Art Work: Eve and the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by J. Kirk. Richards

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A is for Apostasy



Today marks the anniversary of the policy change that labeled members in same-sex relationships as apostate and prohibited their children from receiving ordinances. It is also the anniversary of this blog, which was born from the pain and mourning of that moment.

While I now retain membership in the Church, I am acutely aware that one day I too will be pronounced apostate, my ordinances annulled and my records annotated with an asterisk (*homosexual). It brings to mind Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne's faith community discovers her to be with child, though she has been separated from her husband for a long time. Rather than kill her outright, they devise a worse punishment: she must wear a scarlet A on all of her clothing, becoming a living, shameful representation of her adulterous sin and a warning to others to refrain from the same. Yet the leaders of her community did not count on her indomitable spirit and her talent as a seamstress. She meekly complied with their censure and created exquisitely embroidered ‘A’s on her clothing. Rather than show shame, she showed them beauty.

After her lover dies of guilt, Hester leaves her community for a time. When she returns years later, she takes up residence in her old cottage by the sea-shore. She lives apart from the bustling town, at once a part of the community and separate from it. She chooses to occupy a liminal space, and through that act changes everything:

But, in the lapse of the toilsome, thoughtful, and self-devoted years that made up Hester’s life, the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world’s scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too. And, as Hester Prynne had no selfish ends, nor lived in any measure for her own profit and enjoyment, people brought all their sorrows and perplexities, and besought her counsel, as one who had herself gone through a mighty trouble. Women, more especially,--in the continually recurring trials of wounded, wasted, wronged, misplaced, or erring and sinful passion,--or with the dreary burden of a heart unyielded, because unvalued and unsought,--came to Hester’s cottage, demanding why they were so wretched, and what the remedy! Hester comforted and counselled them, as best she might.

What would happen if, despite the rhetoric of apostasy, queer Mormons and their allies remained active in the Church? They would remain on the margins of the ward, without callings or ordinances, but continue to exert a loving influence. Perhaps with time the label would cease to hold opprobrium and instead garner respect. “These are the people,” members might say, “who followed the spiritual promptings in their heart. These are the people who loved when others were too afraid. These are the people who accept the Lord even when our Church thinks they do not.”

Ultimately we do not choose the label that others give us. But we can, like Hester Prynne, transform the label into something of beauty. If all queer people leave the Church or keep their orientation or gender identity a secret, then subsequent generations of queer youth will continue to pass through an excruciatingly painful and lonely process of self-discovery, a process that some do not survive. Nothing will change in the Church because those who could be an example to the believers, the lights on the hill, have hidden under a bushel (Matt 5:14-16). For a long time I waited for change to come from the top down, for a magnificent and sweeping transformation in the Church.  But now I realize that God touches one heart at a time as each person undergoes personal conversion. When a member looks into the eyes of a queer person, they at last see what God sees: a heart full of beauty, strength, and love.

We need more wise women and men to keep the borders of the Church. We are the gatekeepers between the civilized and the natural, the old and the new. When we stay, we flood the Church with wild ideas, raw material from which new revelation can be fashioned. We are an unanswered question to which the Lord will reply, if only we keep asking. In the meantime, those who know rejection’s sting are imbued with a greater capacity for empathy, for hearing the problems of others and refraining from a judgemental stare. Those who have been wounded know how to heal. We can choose to cast out the bitterness that rankles, soothing our hearts with the balm of the Savior’s Atonement, and then apply the Healer’s art in turn. Our Church is sick, and we must be the ones to mend it.

If we believe in the Gospel, then we believe in the progress of Truth. Light and Knowledge will pour down from heaven, illuminating every corner of the human soul. Darkness and ignorance will give way as the Lord extends His power to encompass even the decrepit cockles of the hardest heart. The dams of prejudice will burst before this onslaught, and one more corner of Zion will be reconciled to the whole.

Apostates, we need you. We need your love and your patience and your forgiveness. I know how hard it is to stay, to accept even for a moment a lesser position in the Kingdom of God. But are we not following the example of our Master, who descended below all things to exalt all things in turn? A man cannot be saved in bigotry. We need to give Church members a chance to right their wrongs, to learn to love their neighbor. In this endeavor Christ’s Atonement will sustain us, “for God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 2:7).

Love will win in the end. For God is love, and God always wins.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Monsters

 Artwork by Christy Grandjean

Monsters dwell in liminal spaces. They crouch in the shadows of ideologies, sliding between the dissonance created from warring factions of humanity. Normally they are safely distanced as the Other, a menace that cannot cross the palisades of our worldview. But when we pass through liminal space (or in my case, set up residency there) we must face monsters of our own making.

Both Mormon and Queer ideologies have ways of slaying monsters. If you are Mormon, the queer monster can be caged, repressed, and finally slayed through death and resurrection. If you are Queer, you can be rescued from the mormon monster’s layer, free from its oppressive sway. But what of Queer Mormons? These grappling ideologies can synthesize into a paradigm of fecund beauty, or the worst parts can amalgamate into a chimeric demon.

This demon stalks me.

What if homosexual action truly were a sin? What if its indulgence ensured that God will cast the soul far from his presence, and the warm connections of family will give way to the cold reality of eternal isolation? And what if homosexual desires were also incurable, even by Christ’s Atonement? What if the deepest longing for human connection, to find one’s mate and helpmeet, were forever corrupted, so that the one joy we seek in life were forever denied, even after death? And yet we are compelled to fulfill that need for mate and love, so that most if not all of us succumb to forbidden paths and are lost to the light. We are doomed to failure.

Some seek to slay this monster. They train their sword on the Mormon half, insisting that homosexuality cannot be a sin. But if they are wrong, they will lead a life of guilt, devoid of joy, and suffer eternal consequences. Others attack the Queer half, insisting that the World seeks to deceive them. But if they are wrong, they will lead a life of deprivation, devoid of joy, and miss out on life’s greatest blessings. Both groups avoid the truth: both halves are inseparable and immortal. We will always be Mormon, and always be Queer. And we realize that we were never looking at a monster, only a mirror with our own reflection.

Are we then the servants of Satan of which Elder Nelson warned? Are we destined to perversion, to pull the Saints into the muck of sin and false teachings? Are we to be an illustration of God’s wrath to warn and instruct the faithful in obedience? Do we then fulfill our existence when we at last sink into Hell?

I hear the whispers in the darkness of my mind. Demon, they call me. Aberration. Inhuman Abomination. It is my own voice.

How long can we humans dwell in liminal space before monsters and madness devour us? How long before we become monsters ourselves?  


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Proclamation Families




In 1995, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created the document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” In it they outlined their hopes for the ideal family, one based on divinely revealed principles, and gave it the full weight of their prophetic approbation. While I am fully aware of the Proclamation’s historical context, namely as a response to a judicial ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in Hawaii the previous year, I cannot help but believe that any document penned through revelation contains more than the authors intended.

I recently heard someone make the distinction between Proclamation families and Non-Proclamation families, meaning heterosexual couples versus homosexual couples. Such a reading focuses on the Proclamation’s exclusionary potential. Of course, it is somewhat limiting to think that the document can only exclude homosexual couples: those who are single, divorced, widowed, and infertile are excluded too, not to mention those who meet the criteria of a man, a woman, and children, but are unmarried, too poor to keep a parent at home, atheist, non-Christian, or abusive. In fact, if we seek to perfectly emulate the “Proclamation to the World,” the vast majority of the world falls short.

Alternately, we can read the Proclamation as inclusive, meaning that it applies to all families. Just as the U.S. Constitution has the Necessary and Proper Clause, which allows Congress to expand its powers as needed to meet the nation’s needs, the Proclamation states: “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” This gives each individual wide-ranging interpretive powers, using the gift of personal revelation to tailor the principles inherent in the Proclamation to their own family situation.

What might a queer Proclamation family look like? Let’s take a look.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.” Indeed, I doubt anyone could argue with such a statement. I need look no further than the imperfect yet clearly celestial marriage of my own mother and father to know that heterosexual marriage is a beautiful and beneficent institution. And the divinity of heterosexual marriage in no way threatens the divinity of queer marriages. Thus marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman or a man and a non-binary person, or a polygamous situation can also be ordained of God.

“Family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children,” another self-evident statement. It is through wonderful heterosexual families that many of God’s queer children come into this world. It is how queer couples grow in love and sacrifice and selflessness together, and have children of their own. Family is the mechanism by which we prepare for eternity.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” Need we say more? All human beings are divine, loved by God, and created in the divine image. We all have a divine destiny, straight and queer.

“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” As a cisgender male, I can feel an essential masculinity in myself, even as I pass rather freely through societal constructions of gender norms. This statement has given me great confidence to know that no matter what I may do, my masculinity remains intact. The Mormon transgender community has also found great comfort in this statement, knowing that their gender identity is eternal, that it existed before they were put into imperfect mortal bodies, and that it will continue after this life in the resurrection of perfect bodies.

“The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.” What a blessing that we can remain with those we love even after death. But of course, I would find it odd if an omniscient and omnipotent god had not made plans to allow families to continue throughout eternity. Even those who died without sealing ordinances in this life are receiving them vicariously in our temples. No doubt the Lord has also prepared a way for current queer families to be blessed with eternal perpetuation.

“We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” Kids are important! Thanks to the miracles of modern science, clearly a blessing from God, queer families can also fulfill this commandment. Not only are surrogacies and artificial inseminations available, but it seems likely that we will soon be able to combine the DNA of two men or two women to form healthy children for queer families. Many children also need a new home, and queer families can nurture them through adoption.

“We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” This is a slight rephrasing of the temple covenant we make when we agree to obey the law of chastity, which applies to everyone, straight and queer. However, I like the temple phrasing better. The next time you are in an endowment session, listen carefully to the words and note that the word “respectfully” is never used. And honestly, could not the queer community, particularly the gay male community, stand a little more monogamy? Men, it’s time to grow up and settle down with a good husband and start having kids! Stable, life-long, committed relationships are so much better than a string of one-night stands! Listen to the prophets; they know what they’re talking about. And if you’re looking and haven’t found the right guy yet, don’t be discouraged. The Lord wants to bless you with a good marriage. Keep looking.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.” Absolutely. So do husband and husband, and wife and wife. How wonderful if all families, straight and queer, loved and cared for each other? This is surely a true doctrine from the Lord.

“Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” This part speaks for itself.

“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” As of 2015, no queer couples in the U.S. have an excuse. Your children deserve to be born within the bonds of matrimony, and those bonds are sacred. Can you imagine stable, committed queer marriages, where there is no cheating? How much happier children would be in such a marriage! And while we may even acknowledge that a mother and father would be ideal, I think we can make do just fine with two fathers and an aunt, or two mothers and a grandfather. As we said above, “other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” This is perhaps the key sentence in all the Proclamation. Families can be happy when they follow the Lord, queer or straight. The Savior taught us to love one another, and that makes for happy families.

Parents should “provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” and “nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” As long as there is food for hungry mouths and kisses for bruised knees, a child can grow up happy and loved. But only when both parents work together as equals will they best accomplish this, however labor is divided.

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” We are accountable for making sure our budding queer families are the kind that will be acceptable to God. They must be filled with love, with laughter, with joy. Our families will contribute to the bulwark that upholds communities and nations.

Marriage is still a ways off for me, an uncertainty amidst a sea of possibilities. But were I to marry another man, we will have a copy of the Proclamation hanging on our wall, and we will be a Proclamation family. Because it is my testimony that happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Prophet’s Voice




What does the Church’s narrative look like for people who experience same-sex attraction? What would their ideal journey be? I have read the words of prophets and apostles, and as best I can tell, this is what they envision for us.

A boy1 is born, and either through latent biological factors or sociological and environmental influences, this boy develops feelings of same-sex attraction during his pubescent years. He is concerned, but has read the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and knows that if he experiences these feelings he should go to his parents and bishop for counseling.

Once seated before his bishop, he is assured that he is still loved and in no ways a less valiant child of God. As this young man has not committed any transgressions, and merely has feelings of same-sex attraction, there is no need for repentance or church discipline. This bishop is well versed in the words of modern apostles, and directs the youth towards resources such as mormonsandgays.org or the seminal talks of Dallin H. Oaks and Jeffery R. Holland. The young man understands that he is first and foremost a child of God, and only secondarily a being who experiences sexual feelings. Instead of fixating on what makes him different, he instead focuses on his Church callings, on preparing for a mission, and on service to his family and ward members. He should not associate with any groups that identify primarily by their sexual orientation. Dating is reserved as a group activity where he becomes good friends with the young women in his ward and develops good social skills.

He serves a mission and returns with honor. Because he was so focused on missionary work, issues of same-sex attraction were not a temptation. He enrolls in a good university to continue his education and prepare to provide for a family.

Dating becomes a new goal in order to reach marriage. The young man is perturbed by how difficult this may be, for his feelings of same-sex attraction have not lessened. He goes to speak with his bishop again for more advice. After studying the words of the apostles, his bishop instructs him that he should continue to date lots of different women and make strong friendships with them. He should not marry a woman unless he feels genuine attraction towards her. Otherwise he should continue to serve diligently in the Church in order to keep his feelings of same-sex attraction in the background.

At this point there are two possibilities for the hypothetical young man. If his feelings of same-sex attraction are not overly strong and he also experiences attraction for the opposite sex, then he will in due time find a woman to whom he is attracted and be able to marry in the temple. At this point his feelings of same-sex attraction are just like any other extra-marital attraction: they are to be managed carefully in order to maintain fidelity in his marriage. In some cases, he may develop a strong romantic attraction to a woman without the accompanying sexual attraction. In this case he may make the decision to enter into a committed marriage and rely on his covenant promises to make the marriage a success. In both cases, his continued commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ will serve as the bulwark of his marriage.

The other possibility is that his feelings of same-sex attraction are so consummate that he experiences no attraction to the opposite sex. In his case, he should continue to make strong friendships with women in the event that one of those relationships might flower into attraction and subsequent marriage. However, he is not expected to marry in this life. Instead he should devote his energy and resources to the Church, ensuring that the Gospel is foremost in his life. His relationship with God and with the Savior Jesus Christ should be the focus of all that he does. In this way his primary identity is that of a child of God, and he should be able to maintain ascendency over his sexual feelings.

When this man dies, he will be released from the imperfection of same-sex attraction. It is an affliction of this life only, tied to the physical and imperfect mortal body, and will be healed in the afterlife. If he married, his love for his wife will be made perfect and whole. If he did not marry, his sexuality will become whole, and he will find a righteous woman to marry in the spirit world, for the prophets have frequently promised that all the blessings of the Gospel will be made available to those who are righteous in this life, including marriage for those who, through no fault of their own, were not able to marry in this life.

At times in his life, this man may stumble. He may allow his thoughts to fantasize about a homosexual relationship, masturbate, view homoerotic pornography, or even have a homosexual affair. All these can be repented of through the man’s diligence, the counsel of his bishop, and most importantly, the atonement of Jesus Christ. With time he should learn the self-mastery necessary to not indulge in any of these temptations. While acknowledging that these feelings of same-sex attraction will most likely never go away, by focusing on the Gospel and making Jesus the center of his life, the man will be able to choose not to act in this manner, and the feelings will become of secondary importance. He will find fulfillment in this life and eternal life in the next.

This is the story that Church leaders weave, the mythos2 by which they would have me live. While others find it compelling, it fails to resonate with me. When I picture myself as that man, as the depicted life as my life, I break down in tears. I do not believe that such a path could bring me happiness. And yet I still ask myself if I could not choose to believe it, to drift through life shrouded in in the certainty of the official LDS narrative. Perhaps I could, but for now a different path calls, one I must forge between the two narratives of Queer and Mormon.

At the same time, I cannot fault others for choosing this life and this story. What does not hold the ring of truth in my ears may harmonize well in another’s. And who am I to demand that Church leaders change their tune? I have the spiritual autonomy to sing my own melody and delight in the dissonance, and I should also allow them theirs.

But that autonomy was hard won, pried from the ridged grasp of prophetic infallibility and nursed into the supple song I now enjoy. And sometimes a young mind can find no peace in this narrative and no escape, shaking with the clanging incongruities until it shatters and is silent, a voice that will sing no more.


Notes:

1) Curiously enough, there is no narrative for women who experience same-sex attraction. It is conceptualized primarily as a male problem. One would assume that women should follow a similar pattern for their spiritual journey. This article suggests some interesting theories as to why no such female narrative exists.  

2) Mythos in the sense of a culturally significant narrative that aids in the creation of a cosmology. It is neutral in terms of truth or factuality.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mixed-Orientation Marriages



Can Oil and Water Mix?


I’ve had mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs) on the mind of late. Marriage is complex enough when both spouses are attracted to one another, let alone when one or both do not experience typical sexual or romantic attraction for their partner. In these instances we usually hear of gay men marrying straight women, though lately more stories of gay women married to straight men are beginning to emerge. I did some digging into the history of MOMs in the LDS Church and found some heartbreaking stories, as well some interesting developments in modern MOM culture. So let’s begin.

As best I can piece together the narrative, Church leaders used to counsel gay members to marry members of the opposite sex, possibly as late as 1987, as a means of curing homosexual feelings. The idea was that if people were to have heterosexual sex and realize how wonderful it was, as well as have children, they would live out the heteronormative lifestyle and find true happiness therein. Unfortunately, such a plan didn’t work out terribly well. Many families ended in heart-wrenching divorce, the most famous of which is Gerald and Carol Lynn Pearson. Some time after the divorce, Carol Lynn would ask her ex-husband:
“What would have happened if--if you had just made yourself stay where you were with us? If you had just forced yourself to put your other needs away?
Gerald thought a moment and then replied. “I would have become increasingly bitter and empty--just like Frank.” Frank was an old friend whom Gerald had recently run into. He was a homosexual who had married and stayed married and had gained eighty pounds in the last two years and hadn’t touched anyone during those two years, not even his wife. “I had to do what I’ve done. I haven’t done it perfectly. I would change a lot if I could, but I had to do it.” Had to? All that we had, all that we lost… Could not other choices have brought us to some better destination? (Carol Lynn Pearson 204)

With time it became apparent that marriage alone was not enough to make MOMs work. It was then that the leaders of the Church allied themselves with reparative therapy. The basic idea of early reparative therapy (aimed almost entirely at men) was that those who experience homosexual feelings had some form of arrested development that prevented them from fully growing emotionally or mentally into men. By teaching participants to act manlier and deal with childhood traumas, therapists promised that homosexual feelings could be cured. And so a new generation of young Mormons took the plunge into a new round of MOMs. Ironically enough, Emily Pearson, the daughter of Gerald and Carol Lynn, would follow in her parents’ footsteps and marry a gay man, Steven Fales. He even told her of his attractions in a place which was most symbolic of history’s tendency to repeat:
Why the hell had I brought us there to talk of all places? To the house where my mother had found out that her husband was gay? (Emily Pearson 225)
Yet Emily and Steven pushed forward, convinced that they could do better than previous generations:
Steven: We were gonna write a different story. We had faith in this new “reparative therapy”, in the Church, and in ourselves. We could lick it! We were supposed to be together. We had fasted and prayed. We had all the right confirmations. We would succeed where the previous generation had failed. We would defy Good-bye, I Love You and write Hello, I Love You (Fales 20).
Emily: Maybe together we had a “greater than us” work to do. Maybe we could marry and actually be successful at it. Maybe we could write a book together -- a far different book than the one my mother wrote. We would conquer successfully what my parents had failed miserably at. Steven and I could be the poster children for reparative therapy (Emily Pearson 227).
Steven took therapy sessions from the head of NARTH himself, The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. He was taught the importance of connecting with his primal masculine energy, of behaving like a real man, and even quit his dream of theater and Broadway because it wasn’t masculine enough. But the wheels of history continued to turn, and soon Emily and Steven’s marriage ended in an even more bitter divorce than Gerald and Carol Lynn’s. It seems that being manlier wasn’t any more successful at curing homosexuality than heterosexual sex. 

And that brings us to today. The current Church policy is less ambiguous, though not widely known:

“Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices” (Hinckley) and “Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith. On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate” (Oaks and Wickman).

Elder Oak’s assumption that homosexuality is solely a male experience is a topic for another blog post. For now let’s focus on the rest. There is still some debate of exactly what “ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background” means. As far as I can tell, people should at least have some bisexual or biromantic tendencies before entering into a heterosexual marriage. Those who have exclusively homosexual/romantic feelings should remain single and celibate.  

Whether or not people can change from homosexual to bisexual or heterosexual is also uncertain. The official Church stance seems to be: sometimes.

Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not (Oaks and Wickman).

People have found a diminishing of that same-sex attraction, almost to the point of vanishing, and others not at all. (Christofferson)

Elder Oaks didn’t rule our conversion therapy completely, but also spoke out against pseudo-therapies in general:

The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate, for medical doctors or for psychiatrists or psychologists and so on . . .The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. (Oaks and Wickman).

So to sum up the principle: if you feel genuine attraction towards someone of the opposite sex, the Church says yes to marriage. If you don’t, the Church says no to marriage. Maybe therapy can reveal some bisexual tendencies, and maybe not.

There are still plenty of people in the Church today who would classify themselves as predominantly gay, yet have entered into MOMs. In one case a man said he experienced a singular instance of opposite-sex attraction towards his wife. In another a man was biromantic, though homosexual, and felt that this was sufficient to build a marriage on. In both cases these men were open about their feelings with their wives before marriage and had accepted their sexuality as something that wouldn’t change and are candid about it with friends, family, and ward members. I imagine that they suffer considerably less stress than their predecessors, as they don’t pressure themselves to change their orientation or gender expression.

The question is will the marriages work out this time around? The average MOM lasts 16.6 years (Dehlin et al. 299), yet this new practice of accepting a queer identity in a MOM is less than a decade old. It’s simply too early to have any data on whether or not this mentality will prove effective. History seems to show that many MOMs don’t make it. As of 2014, the divorce rate was 50%, projected to be 69% if conditions remain unchanged (Dehlin et al. 299). Yet many of these marriages were made when the stress of shame of queer opprobrium dominated. Genuine self-acceptance and acceptance of a queer identity coupled with open communication between spouses might prove the key to a successful MOM. Or it could be the newest fad that grinds another generation into crippling divorce. For my friends’ sake who are in MOMs, I certainly hope and pray the former is the case.

The sad part is that the Church now counsels queer members to ignore their sexuality as much as possible, focusing instead on their identity as a child of God. While these two identities could theoretically co-exist peacefully (and give MOMs the best chance at survival), pitting these two identities against one another as antithetical could produce similar stress factors which collapsed the marriages of the last and second-to-last generations.

So here are the questions for the day. Are the current methods of maintaining MOMs more successful than those that have come before? And if not, will humans discover or God reveal the right formula for a successful MOM? I personally do not believe a MOM is for me, but I also wouldn’t rule it out for others.

For now I will watch, wait, and see.
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Works Cited:
Christofferson, D. Todd. “Purpose of This Website.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2012. http://mormonsandgays.org/ Accessed 8/15/16.

Dehlin, John P., Renee V. Galliher, William S. Bradshaw, Katherine A. Crowell. “Psychological Correlates to Religious Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction: A Mormon Perspective.” Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health 18 (2014): 284-311.

Fales, Steven. Confessions of a Mormon Boy. New York: Alyson Books, 2006.

Hinckley, Gordon B. Reverence and Morality. Ensign. April 1987. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1987/04/reverence-and-morality?lang=eng. Accessed 8/15/16.

Oaks, Dallin H. and Lance B. Wickman. “Interview With Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman: ‘Same-Gender Attraction.’” Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/interview-oaks-wickman-same-gender-attraction. Accessed 8/15/16.

Pearson, Carol Lynn. Good-bye, I Love You. New York: Random House, 1986.

Pearson, Emily. Dancing with Crazy. USA: Hulabaloo Press, 2012.